Nigel Farage and UKIP may not have much time for non-English people but Sourav Bhattacharya argues that majority of Britons have embraced multiculturalism as a fact of life.
||Wed, May 21 2014|
An Enigmatic Beauty
My many Kolkata
As the world comes to terms with Narendra Modi sweeping the parliamentary elections in India - with sundry commentators conducting the last rights of Indian secularism - the political temperature in the UK continues to rise as we inch closer to D-Day - or in less dramatic terms, May 22nd . On this day, UK residents are expected to flock to the polling stations to decide who should represent them in the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg.
Though this has been a decidedly low-key affair till date, it hasn’t been without its fair share of drama. The most talked about thing has been the rise of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), which professes a brand of nationalism bordering on chest-thumping patriotism but often descending into downright jingoism.
The UKIP is a strange phenomenon. It is a single-issue party, with its stated goal of getting UK out of the European Union (EU) and limiting migration of East Europeans into the UK. It proudly confesses to having no other worthwhile policies apart from its anti-EU stance. Their brand of intolerance is in sharp contrast to the British values of tolerance and commitment to freedom, equality and cultural diversity.
UKIP is led by the maverick Nigel Farage who has, with help from his right-wing cronies in the press and shady organisations like the MigrationWatch, cultivated a rustic beer-swigging English gentleman persona.
Yes, that’s right! UKIP doesn’t have much time for non-English people.
That shouldn’t matter though, as The Scots are planning to desert the UK anyway - no armed insurgencies needed, an election later this year will suffice - and the Northern Irish never loved the English except when bombing them. As for the Welsh, I would hazard a guess that a place having towns named Amlwch doesn’t deserve love, especially from Mr Farage!
‘The Kippers’ - yes that is what the UKIP supporters proudly call themselves - have some interesting, and dare I say fishy views. Nigel’s policies - or their lack of it actually - tends to appeal to a certain demographic in the UK.
Let’s visualize the 50- plus white Caucasian male, left behind by the rapid globalisation of the last 10 years, gathering around in their rural pubs with pints of beer ruminating on the loss of what they see as their England.
They prefer things to be simple. What better than UKIP, which has just one policy – ‘get out of the EU’. Easy to understand and not taxing on their incredibly tiny brains. Theirs is not to reason “why” and “how” and “what-happens-next”. They wouldn’t like to spend time wondering why India and China would bother to sign trade deals with the UK with its 60 million consumers when they can do the same with the EU which has 500 million consumers.
And the right-wing press in the UK are having a field day. They are making hay as the sun shines just like the press all over the world have done over the years. What better way to sell newspapers than to target them to unquestioning and gullible ‘Kippers’ who like their opinions made and presented to them on a platter everyday morning on their doormat?
But the unfortunate side-effect is that this demographic also have a closeted view of who should or should not be allowed into the UK, where blacks and ethnic minorities should belong (Africa anyone? Or maybe Pakistan?), and generally bigoted views about women’s rights (one of their candidates termed women as sluts) and gay rights (floods in 2013 caused by government legalising gay marriage). If you laugh at their views, they feel pleased, secure in their knowledge that they are bigots and there is little you can do about it.
What chance do seasoned political debates have with this toxic combination? Everything Labour, Tories and the Liberal Democrats say are lies in the ‘Kipper universe’. If you dare to even murmur that the number of Romanians and Bulgarians working in Britain has gone down though border controls on them were fully lifted in January 2014 (according to the Office for National Statistics), you are a communist, or a socialist or a liberal establishmentarian, whatever that means.
You see, petty things like facts should not stand in the way of ‘Nigel and his Kippers’. If you as mention that there are just 2.7 million foreign nationals in the UK workforce of 30 million, which is under 10 per cent, you are a liar. Any criticism or fact-checking from mainstream political parties just reinforces in the mind of the kippers the misconception that the establishment is out to martyr them.
It seems that the presence of Mr Farage and UKIP has suddenly given a green light to these characters, empowering them to come out of woodwork like lice. While they are not overtly visible, if we are not careful, we could be in for a nasty bite. And the rash that will leave behind will take years to heal.
Let’s not disillusion ourselves. UKIP are going to win the EU elections in 3 days’ time by a large margin. The question is what comes next and how much wind they have in their sails. Luckily, majority of British people have embraced cultural diversity as a fact of life and rejoice in the concept of multiculturalism. Will this silent majority rise up from their slumber in time for the UK parliamentary elections in May 2015 and halt the relentless march of hate?
Or would we devolve into another Greece, with its Golden Dawn openly preaching its fascist and Nazi ideology? This could be prevented only if the right-minded people shake off their indifference and vote in May 2015 to send a clear message to UKIP and the world that UK is an inclusive, outward-looking global power, not an inward-looking, early-21st-century caricature of 1930s Germany.
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